Monday, March 28, 2016

Replacing Alternator for our 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan

Replacing the alternator for our van

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

After a 2 week vacation in Florida and a very LONG day of travel, we finally arrived in Halifax, got into our van and started driving just to have the battery icon come on about 20 minutes into our 2.5hr drive home to Moncton. We decided to keep driving although I was pretty sure the alternator was dead.

Unfortunately, about 12km out of Truro, the voltage had dropped so low (after all, the van had been sitting in a parking lot for 2 weeks) that the automatic safety settings kicked in and disabled gear 3 and 4. We kept driving to the next exit, turned around and hobbled back to Truro at 65km/h.

Luckily, we made it to the Canadian Tire where we bought a brand new battery ($210 bucks) and a voltage meter. Not surprisingly, the voltage of the old battery was down to about 10.5V and the van wouldn't even start so we asked the boys at Canadian Tire if they could hook up our old battery to their charger for half an hour during which we walked over to McD's for some grub.

Half an hour later, I picked up the somewhat charged battery, bought a SECOND new battery as a backup, installed the FIRST new battery (which, surprisingly, only showed 11.7V) and headed on our way. Once we hit Sackville we decided to drop by my brother in law's place, hook up our van to his running car so that his alternator could charge up our battery again. After about 30 minutes of charging, the battery, which had dropped down to 11.2V during our 1hr drive was back up at 11.9V.

Unfortunately, the sun had gone down so we had to drive with the lights on and we still had a 1hr drive ahead of us. Gratefully, we made it almost to Moncton when the computer dropped gear 3 and gear 4 again. We hobbled the last 10km at 60km/h and arrived home just to find a 16" snow bank in front of our driveway.

By now, it was almost 10, the kids were exhausted and I couldn't risk parking the van to snow blow the driveway so I checked to make sure the snow bank was soft snow and not ice, backed into my neighbor's driveway and gunned it! We made it all the way into our garage although the windshield was completely covered with snow when I hit the snow bank and I could only see out of the bottom left corner of my windshield.

Afterwards I was thinking that I should have snow blowed the driveway first because if I had missed the open garage door and hit the post it would have caused a LOT of damage! Note to myself: never do that again!

Anyways, the next day I called a few places just to hear in shock that they wanted over $600 bucks for a new alternator! Finally I got a more reasonable quote for $285 plus tax at Marshland Auto Parts. I picked up the alternator and followed the instructions in my Haynes manual to install the part.

Although it took me about 2hrs from start to finish, the second time I could easily do it in under 1hr.

After everything was put back together I was more than glad to have been able to fix it for about $530 bucks taxes in (alternator was $320, new battery was $210). The other option (get a hotel in Truro and have Canadian Tire install it would have cost close to $1000 and I would NOT have an extra battery)

Getting ready to take off the air intake housing
The instructions for removal and installation
Close-up of the alternator electrical connections
Closeup of the alternator mounting bolt
Closeup of the other two alternator mounting bolts
The new alternator
Another view
The box of the new alternator
I took off the mud shield but actually didn't need to do that
The plastic rivets holding the mud shield in place
Draining about 3 liters of coolant
Another view of where I drained some coolant
The vinyl hose draining coolant into a clean bucket
The radiator cooling fan; removal was actually VERY easy and well designed
After the radiator cooling fan was removed
The alternator brushes were the cause of the failure
Another view of the alternator brushes
And another view
The new battery
Socket set
Vinyl hose
LED light

1 battery
1 alternator


2 hrs


Back to charging at 14.2V


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